U.S. new COVID cases down 21% in past week, deaths fall from peak

(Reuters) - The United States reported a 21% drop in new cases of COVID-19 last week, as all but one state reported declines in new infections, and the number of coronavirus patients in hospitals also fell.

The country reported 1.2 million new cases in the week ended Jan. 24, down from 1.5 million new cases in the previous week. It was the biggest decline on both a percentage and absolute basis in the past year, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county reports.

New Hampshire is the only state where cases rose. In California, a hotspot where hospitals have been overwhelmed by the number of patients, new cases fell 32% in the past week.

(Open in an external browser to see a related graphic)

Deaths from the virus fell by 6.6% last week to about 21,600 across the country, with Arizona, Alabama and New Mexico having the highest per capita death rates. Deaths rose in 17 out of 50 states last week and are a lagging indicator, meaning they can rise weeks after cases and hospitalizations fall.

Cumulatively, nearly 419,000 people have died from the novel coronavirus, or one in every 780 U.S. residents.

The average number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals fell 7.5% from the previous week to about 119,000, the biggest one-week drop on a percentage basis since the week ended Aug. 9, according to a Reuters analysis of data from the volunteer-run COVID Tracking Project.

Nationally, 9.2% of tests of tests came back positive for the virus, down from 11.0% the prior week and the lowest since the week ended Nov. 8, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. The lowest positive test rates were in Vermont at 2.3% and Connecticut and Hawaii at 2.5%, and the highest were Iowa at 43.5% and Alabama at 32.5%.

Graphic by Chris Canipe, writing by Lisa Shumaker, editing by Tiffany Wu